High School Physics + more

# Difference between distance and displacement

Last updated on February 8th, 2024 at 11:24 am

Distance is the length that is actually traveled on a route while Displacement is the shortest distance (straight line distance) between the initial point and final point of the traveled path.

Distance is a scalar quantity and it is required to calculate speed. On the other hand, displacement is a vector quantity that has both magnitude and direction. Displacement is used to calculate the velocity of an object in motion.

Difference between distance and displacement with an example

Now we will explain the difference between distance and displacement with an example.

So if anybody runs a completely circular route once then the Distance traveled is equal to the circumference of the circle i.e. 2.π. R where R is the radius of the circle (and π is 22/7).

Say, for the circular track in Figure 1 above, when someone runs from A to B and then B to A (following the given circular track) distance traveled can be obtained by the above formula, distance = 2.π. R

At the same time the Displacement = 0 because the final point(A) is the same as the initial point(A).

Similarly, if the runner runs half of the circular track (A to B only) then the Distance traveled is half of the circumference of the circle = π.R.
And, the Displacement, in this case, is AB which is equal to 2R or the Diameter of the circle.